Speech from December 3rd Int'l Day of Climate Action in London
This is the statement written jointly by members of London Rising Tide, and read out at the December 3rd 2005 rally outside the US Bombassy in London:
This day of action is undoubtedly the best supported and most international day of action on climate ever planned, which is an amazing achievement. Today’s a day to tell the world that we have had enough of being told that ‘the end could be nigh’ by scientists, only to see our leaders jamming their foot on the accelerator of a car that is already hurtling towards the cliff edge - whilst they shout ‘Trust me – I have your best interests at heart!’
And whilst today is a great achievement, maybe we should be asking ourselves some difficult questions, and re-examining our arguments and our tactics.
Why are we are here outside the American Embassy? Is it because Americans consume more energy than any other nation? Is it because America pollutes more than any other nation? If that’s why we’re here, it shows our hypocrisy - for OUR excessive consumption lifestyles here in the UK and OUR acceptance of the current capitalist status quo is equally to blame for the climate chaos the West is creating. We cannot simply find a worse criminal than ourselves and lay the blame at their door. So why are we here?
This day of action aims to pressure the American government to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol – even though it will only reduce emissions by less that 2% when cuts of up to 80 - 90% are needed. We know that emissions per capita are now greater globally than they were at the start of the Kyoto process. London Rising Tide are not opposed to concerted international action on climate change but Kyoto, unfortunately, is not the answer.
In fact it’s nothing more that distraction, a business deal disguised as an environmental treaty. It's creating a false beacon of hope for concerned citizens as well as being a payday for carbon traders and their like. And there are social movements and indigenous people in the global south who are saying this, not just small but noisy groups based in the west. Business is, and will, continue as usual if we ask governments to sort this out! We stand here today because we still haven’t accepted that national governments and their international treaties are not going to find a way out of the fossil fuelled madness we find ourselves in. In Tony Blair’s own words – “No country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term problem”. His mind is obviously made up, and it has to be as ultimately he answers to business and industry.
International climate strategies put forward by governments are wedded to the free market; they refuse to accept that trade-offs have to be made between economic growth and environmental protection. For example, the carbon trading schemes that lie at the heart of the Kyoto Protocol will make some people very rich while turning the atmosphere into a giant commodity to be bought and sold like barrels of oil by western traders, governments and corporations, further deepening the world’s already gaping imbalances of power and IN NO way reducing emissions! So why are we here??
We are here because more that a hundred and fifty thousand people die every year directly from the effects of climate change, because a million species face extinction by 2050. And we know it’s going to get worse. Thousands of us are here today because we care, because we’re angry! But we will continue being angry with little effect, unless we realize that it is up to US, not governments, to bring about change.
Let’s reclaim the power to control our own lives and our planet’s future from the puppet governments which time and again sell out to the interests of the largest corporations. If we are to solve this problem let’s start creating our own solutions in our own communities. Communities to return to, talk with and organise in.
And of course we must also tackle the current system head on! Our capital city is a global hub for the oil industry, which gives us an extraordinary opportunity as well as responsibility to take creative, direct action to get in the way of its murderous progress. In April 2003, as the invasion of Iraq was getting underway, London Rising Tide was part of an occupation of the International Petroleum Exchange, where any tremor in the supply of oil worldwide means an immediate jackpot for its owners (including BP and Shell). By closing down the London trading floor we not only directly disrupted the days’ business but also sent an urgent message to the world’s financial markets – your environmentally suicidal and socially unjust strategies will no longer be tolerated! Let’s take inspiration from the Oilwatch network of groups in the global south who have pledged to resist the oil industry’s attempts to drill for yet more unwanted oil and gas on their lands. And let’s come together in August 2006 to build what has been christened as the ‘Camp for Climate Action’ (http://climatecamp.org.uk/), which aims to fuse low emission living with positive direct action on the root causes of climate chaos.
Around the world people are fighting for climate justice and to dismantle the oil industry before it dismantles us. We must fight also, fight with our anger, our creativity and our compassion. We cannot only march from A to B and expect people, including governments, to listen. Governments only begin to get nervous when people start to have an effect upon business as usual.
Today has been a great day, but next time, how about marching along the route of the proposed third runway at Heathrow, or even down the M25! If we are to have any hope of building a powerful movement for change, we must show that we DO hold power. The system we live in is designed to lull its citizens into a false sense of security AND a false sense of powerlessness. If we are to attract more people into movements against climate change, let’s inspire them by taking action that reflects both the reality of the problem and the power that each of us holds. Throughout history civil disobedience has been used again and again to triumph over injustice! This situation is unjust, and it’s time to fight.
It is inspiring to see so many people here today, and to know that thousands more are out on the streets around the world. Let’s fight harder, and not once a year during international climate talks but every day – in our own lives and in our communities, as individuals and networks, and using tactics that show what we’re capable of. Our future, and the future of the planet itself - looks as if it’s in the hands of leaders who are selling us out – as we saw in Gleneagles last July. But the future isn’t in their hands, it’s in ours, and we won’t accept their phony solutions!
Let’s deepen our analysis and broaden our tactics. And by doing this we can begin to dismantle this catastrophic, soul-destroying system, and begin to build a just and fossil fuel free future.